42 hotels in Lebanon pipeline, but projects depend on security

LEBANON The head of Lebanon’s hotel association says that 42 hotels at a combined cost of US$2.4 billion have received project permits in the country, but he says their completion is dependent on maintaining stable security in the notoriously unstable region.

Pierre Ashkar tells The Daily Star of Beirut that some 5,000 guestrooms—most located in and around Beirut—have received approval, “but the operation of these new facilities depends mainly on the security situation in the country.”

Ashkar points to the influx of tourism investments that were initiated in 2005, many of which were canceled a year later following the Israel-Hezbollah War. Lebanon tourism suffered losses of about US$2.2 billion in 2006 as a result of the conflict.

Any security deterioration this year or next would deliver another blow to tourism in general and the hotel industry in particular, Ashkar says. “This will take back hotels’ occupancy rates to the humble records registered in the years 2007 and 2008,” he says.

The occupancy rate in Beirut today sits at about 70%.